Ford to re-enter minivan market with imported Transit Connect Wagon
7-seater promises cheaper price than Sienna and Odyssey, plus class-leading '30-plus' mpg.
By the end of next year, Ford will be back to building tall roofs and sliding doors, but on a rather unexpected family car: the European-designed Transit Connect Wagon.
This is not your typical American minivan. In fact, Ford won't even call it by such a name.
It's "an affordable and stylish alternative to conventional minivans," Mike Levine, Ford's truck spokesman, told MSN Autos. "Customers are looking for alternatives to conventional minivans that are too large, too expensive and consume too much fuel. Transit Connect Wagon will appeal to these customers."
The 3-row, 7-seat Wagon -- built in Spain and sold across Europe as the Tourneo Connect -- has an upright, high-top design with the simpler, fluid lines that typically grace a commercial vehicle. That's exactly the point, as it's based on the next-generation Transit Connect work vans also coming in late 2013. Overall, it's a little shorter, thinner and lighter than its plumper, frumpier-looking minivan competition. And it looks surprisingly attractive in these first photos.
Two wheelbases will be available, similar to how Dodge once offered a regular Caravan and a Grand Caravan. The long-wheelbase model is comparable to the Honda Odyssey, while the shorter-wheelbase version puts it on par with the smaller 5-seat Mazda 5, until now the only compact minivan in its segment. Two 4-cylinder engines found in the 2013 Fusion will be on hand: a 2.5-liter with 175 horsepower and a turbocharged 1.6-liter making 178 horsepower and greater low-end torque. The Wagon won't offer a V6 engine and is down on towing capacity and overall cargo room compared with its rivals. As such, it's expected to return the segment's best fuel economy, with an expected "30-plus" EPA highway rating.
Ford's once-popular Windstar/Freestar minivans faded out after 2007, ceding the market to better vans from Toyota, Honda and Chrysler. General Motors, faced with outdated models and poor crash tests on its minivans, hasn't built any since 2008. The Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country -- the longest-running and top-selling minivans -- have been the only American models consistently in the game.
But while the "cool" parents have switched to more popular SUVs and crossovers, minivans remain a huge draw for those who don't give a damn how they look, and who want true practicality and superior cargo space. This year, minivans are on track to surpass a half-million in sales; all eight minivan models in the U.S. sold nearly 470,000 units through October. Ford is smart to jump back in.
The Wagon will be priced below the base Toyota Sienna, Levine said, which starts at $27,245 with destination. However, the Transit Connect Wagon could steal sales away from the 7-seat Flex, which already has trouble keeping up with Ford's more popular 7-seat Explorer. Levine said the Flex was "aimed at slightly older, more affluent buyers" than the Wagon and wouldn't be affected.
We agree the Wagon is a very different vehicle, but how many similarly sized vans and crossovers can one automaker sell? Once Ford admits to calling it a minivan, consider us sold.
I like that they are getting back to basics. A nice big open box with simple removable seats. It reminds me of my Dad's 1980 Dodge RAM mini van from my childhood. Back before what is now thought of as a minivan existed. In 1980 it was just a shorter version of a standard van. Still tall and truck like.
Ford will probably build this alongside the C-Max in the US or the Fiesta in Mexico.
I know several Honda Odyssey owners who actually wish (or a happy the still have) one of the first generation Odyssey wagons! This "van" would satisfy many seeking just the passenger capabilities without the gas penalty associated with the heavier vehicles.
It's also another utilization of (I believe) the previous generation platforn underpining the 2006-2011 Foci. AS well as the engine... which should allow it to be easy to work on and change the plugs. Of course the DIY may be a little warry of the high-pressure direct-injection fuel system it is going to use.
...And for America, a diesel?
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